We featured Wild Bank Hill in our recent ‘Peak’s Best Small Hills‘ article, and it’s a cracking place with a lot going for it for the serious walker: Open Access moorland; views of the metropolis of Manchester to the west, the wilds of the Dark Peak to the east; a trig point for the enthusiastic bagger. Indeed, for such a small hill we suspect it will probably make it into our #EssentialPeak bagging list, such are the joys it offers the serious walker.
However, some of us aren’t (always) serious walkers, are we? So, we are pleased to report Wild Bank Hill holds further delights, namely the shapely prominence of Cock Knarr, a north-eastern spur of the hill giving great views out over the reservoirs in the valley below.
Should you wish to bag Wild Bank Hill (and you should), we would therefore suggest a route taking in Cock Knarr Dam, (helping hold back the tide trying to rush forth), before strolling through Cock Wood, the thicket of foliage nestling around the foot of the Knarr, before striding up the short (but pleasing) flank of the hill to the head of Cock Knarr itself.
But, having really scrapped the barrel with the coarse but rewarding similes and metaphors above, we feel a little bit of Public Service Education is probably in order, just to make ourselves feel a touch less, well, daft. So: Knarr, it appears, is a word to describe an old Viking sea-going ship, which seems to fit given these parts were well up in the Danelaw, where Viking names are prevalent. When viewed from the valley below you can certainly see how the hill resembles a ship – especially now the reservoirs have created some ‘sea’ for it to rest upon. Where the cock comes from is anyone’s guess – however, interestingly, a Cog or Cock was also a type of ship, developed after the knarr fell out of favour. So it’s possible that Cock Knarr could be a tautological name meaning Ship Ship Hill (akin to Torpenhow Hill in Cumbria, the elements of whose name translate from their various sources as Hill-hill-hill Hill).
So there you go, after a rather silly attempt to turn local landmarks into a cheap gag about a chap’s privates we’ve all actually learned something today. Positively Reithian.
The Great Outdoors Magazine recently published an article looking at the UK’s best small hills. It was, of course, great to see the Peak District well represented, with Shutlinsloe and Mam Tor being two of the 12. There was also plenty of great inspiration for further afield. However… being picky about it (and someone’s got to right?!), most of the hills represented were actually pretty big hills. In the UK a mountain is seen as being over 600m in height (2000ft in old money), and many of TGO’s list were between 500m and 600m. So, we’d say, pretty big hills really.
But look, it is nit-picking, and really just a thinly veiled excuse to list what we think are some of the Peak District’s best actual small hills. We’ve chosen five – but we’d love to hear your suggestions.
Crich Stand – 286m
It’s location outside the National Park means Crich Stand is often overlooked. On days when Mam Tor or Kinder will be crowded with day trippers, and wile the nearby tram museum will be full of tourists, Crich Stand itself will still be quitely looking out over the lowlands of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. It’s a great shame, as the views are second to none. On a clear day you can see over 20 miles to Nottingham, the towers of Ratcliffe Power Station and the distant hills of Leicestershire’s county top at Beacon Hill. The stand itself is the name given to the tower topping the hill, a memorial to the Sherwood Foresters. There’s also a trig point to add to your collection!
Walk it: The best route is to head from the Cromford Canal parking at Lea Mills. Alternatively try the rolling hillside between the stand and South Wingfield with it’s romantic ruins. If you are feeling very sluggish you could drive to the top – but that would be cheating.
The Stand from the canal
View from the Stand
Hen Cloud – 410m
In a region of such geological diversity there is nothing quite so dramatic as Hen Cloud and the Roaches. The Edges of the north-eastern fringe present a relatively flat landscape behind their gritstone faces. Not at Hen Cloud. Here the rock has been folded, and prods out of the surrounding landscape at a precipitous angle. Climbing up the rear of Hen Cloud, and looking back on it from the Roaches you really get an impression of the forces at work in twisting and fracturing solid rock in a way even Stanage can’t quite muster.
Walk it: Park along the road below the Roaches for a simple walk up to Hen Cloud – though it gets steep towards the top. For a longer walk park at Tittesworth Reservoir and head up from there – you can’t miss Hen Cloud.
Grin Low – 434m
A short walk up through the woods of Buxton Country Park brings you out onto what is essentially a post industrial landscape – but one softened by nature and time. The area of the summit of Grin Low is covered in old limestone quarries, waste heaps and the remains of lime kilns. The woodland below was originally planted to hide what was then an eyesore from the Duke of Devonshire’s home in Buxton! Now its a great natural playground for kids (and grown ups) to clamber on the rocks and admire the views across to the Dark Peak moors and into Buxton. The small tower crowning the very top of the hill is Soloman’s Temple, built as a folly upon the remains of ancient burial mounds.
Walk it: Park at the country park and walk up through the wood – Poole Cavern is also onsite and worth a visit.
Thorpe Cloud – 287m
What to say about Thorpe Cloud? If there’s a more dramatic, imposing peak standing at under 300m we’d like to know about it! Standing guard over Dovedale and it’s famous stepping stones Thorpe Cloud is another hill ideally suited to family adventures. There are little crags low down the hill to scramble up, then a steep climb up to the summit, where you are rewarded with fine views over Dovedale and across to the rolling countryside of lowland Derbyshire.
Walk it: The western face of the hill has some fun scrambling low down, but is too steep to climb right to the top. Well defined paths head up the edges of this flank, starting from either the bridge by the gauging weir or from the stepping stones (see our route here). For a slightly gentler climb walk from the stepping stones up Lin Dale, and the path doubles back upon itself up the northern flank of the hill.
View from the summit
Thorpe Cloud from Dovedale
Wild Bank Hill – 399m
Of all the hills in this short list Wild Bank Hill is the one that’s probably least well known. But it makes for a great short walk, with some amazing and varied views. From the summit each point of the compass holds a different and contrasting views. To the south the view is of the Kinder and Bleaklow range, with Snake Pass visible, along with the towns of Glossop and Hadfield. West is an incredible view over Manchester. North lie the little reservoirs of the Swineshaw Moor. Lastly, looking east is the imposing Woodhead Pass, which looks particularly dramatic and wild from here.
Walk it: Park on Hobson Moor Road for a short walk up to the summit, or for a longer (and much steeper!) walk start in Stalybridge or from the country park by the Swineshaw Reservoirs.
Over the years I’ve walked in Dovedale several times, but usually in the particularly busy bits. My daughter’s first hill bagging experience was up on Thorpe Cloud last summer, and I’d seen the stepping stones, Lover’s Leap and Dove Holes caves a few times on shorter strolls. Anywhere in Dovedale is special – and I really don’t mind crowds, it’s great to see people out in the countryside. However, I wanted to see some of the other areas around the dale I’d missed before. So, over the past couple of months I’ve had a couple of trips back to try and see some more of the place – and what a contrast they were!
My first trip was in pretty grim weather, with wind and rain for much of the day. Down in the dale itself the views were still pretty impressive. However, while bagging the summits of Bunster Hill and Baley Hill I could barely see my hand in front of my face at times! However, a couple of weeks ago the first real sunshine of Spring came out, so I headed back to prove what amazing views there are from those tops – with Bunster Hill giving particularly amazing views out over Dovedale and the surrounding countryside.
Walk 1 – Dovedale, Baley Hill and Bunster Hill – 7.5 miles
After parking in the pay and display at the entry to Dovedale (sadly the car park at the entrance to the dale was missing it’s usual grumpy attendant – never make the mistake of asking him about the National Trust!) I was quick out and into the dale, crossing the river at the bridge by the gauging station before marching over Lover’s Leap. There are some amazing limestone rock formations all along Dovedale – and if anyone in your party likes a bit of a scramble the steep slopes are perfect, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.
At Dove Holes there was a team of climbers tackling the inside of the cave, then abseiling down from the roofs. They made it look easy work, but I’m not that nimble! Past the caves I was into new territory. As with the busier stretch before the dale is still easy walking with a solid path, but it widens out a touch, with Raven’s Tor looming in the murk to the left, and my target of Baley Hill out of sight up to the right. Viator’s Bridge at Mill Dale made a perfect lunch stop – the village really is as chocolate-box pretty as guidebooks make it sound, even on a gloomy day.
After lunch I took the route up the hill towards Baley Hill. All the way to the top it was pretty easy walking on clear paths, with a concessionary route connecting to the access land occupied by the summit. The ridge of Baley Hill forms a series of raised humps of limestone, which are fun to explore – which is just as well as the views were almost none existent! Working south from the summit is The Nabs, where the little humps of limestone expand and form small crags, which descend steeply down towards a side-dale. I followed the ridges straight down hill. For the most part this was fine but steep – however the last section before joining the path back to Dovedale itself was really a bit too steep, requiring me to hang onto the rock and trees to avoid slipping. It’s probably best to skirt along the top of The Nabs until reaching the top of the path near Hanson Grange. The path back down the side-dale is steep, and was very muddy – but being forested it provided something different to the more exposed nature of the rest of Dovedale.
Once back at the dale I turned left and headed for Ilam Bridge. My aim was to climb up out of the dale to towards Ilam Tops. The OS maps show a footpath apparently heading from besides Ilam Rock, so I tried to find this. A scramble up past the rock and I found what appeared to be a rough path, so followed it up the hill. It was very steep and direct, but always fairly obvious. At the top the path joins to a more well-worn and clearly planned path. I later found that this path (a newer path added as the old one was so steep?) actually appears in the dale slightly north of Ilam Rock, just before Hall Dale. Even this path is sign-posted as being very steep – but it’s probably the safest bet, especially as this initial part of the route I took required a small amount of very basic scrambling past Ilam Rock.
The path along from the Ilam Tops area towards Bunster is pretty clear, along with some ‘welcoming’ signs making it clear you mustn’t step foot off the approved line – which i’m not entirely sure is the ‘definitive’ line, but there you go. Bunster Hill itself is really just the southern end of Ilam Tops – it doesn’t even merit an addition on hill bagging sites as it’s prominence is so small. However, as with so much of the Peak District, the highest ground isn’t always where the walker wants to be aiming for (not least as Ilam Tops itself doesn’t have any ‘official’ public access – probably a problem considering the signage in the area!).
Like Baley Hill, Bunster is topped with small crests of limestone, which are great for exploring and give it a ‘dragon’s back’ appearance from Ilam (on a clearer day!). The actual summit is within a small copse of trees, but it’s barely any higher than any of the other bumps along the ridge. With no views on show today, I quickly took a fairly direct route down the steep flank of the hill, which is all Access Land. From there it was a short, but very muddy, walk past the Issac Walton Hotel and back to the car park.
And, then, with the sun shining! This walk really highlighted just how amazing the views from the hills surrounding Dovedale are – if you get the weather right! This time round I started from the National Trust car park at Ilam Hall, and once on the Access Land at the foot of Bunster Hill I left the footpaths and headed straight upwards. Bunster Hill has two ridges leading away from it’s summit. One heads south-west to Ilam, while one heads east. If the River Dove hadn’t ripped it’s way through the hill the dramatic peak of Thorpe Cloud would be no more than the end of the eastern spur.
After taking in the views across to Thorpe Cloud and across the lower Manifold Valley I descended down towards Dovedale itself. It’s steep, but never too steep, and a rough path helps guide the way down.
Heading over Lover’s Leap I started looking out for the path up to the natural arch and Reynard’s Cave. I’d always missed it, concentrating too hard on marching along the valley, so I wasn’t sure if I’d find it difficult to locate. But, just meters into a pretty distinct path (about halfway between Tissington Spires and Pickering Tor), the arch opens out in front of you, like a trick of the eye (think the invisible bridge in Raiders of the Lost Ark!).
To get back out of Dovedale I crossed Ilam Bridge – and passed the start of the ‘easier’ path up towards Ilam Tops (see above). Hall Dale looks to be a dry valley, and slopes fairly gently (by Dovedale standards) up towards Stanshope. There’s evidence of working of the limestone, which is confirmed by the remains of an old limekiln at the top of a concessionary footpath leading from the dale to Damgate.
From here it was a simple stroll through the rolling countryside of the lower reaches of the River Manifold’s valley. The views across to wooded hills are a contrast to those in Dovedale, with gentler slopes, more green (especially at this time of year) and more cows! As the Manifold falls into the Dove the walk ended back at Ilam Hall. And I can honestly say there’s no better place to have been walking on a fresh, sunny Spring day.
It’s not big, and it’s not clever. There’s no hiding from it, this blog is puerile and probably shouldn’t be encouraged. Basically, we’ve been scanning our Ordnance Survey maps for the rudest-sounding places in the Peak District we can find. Like a child searching the dictionary for rude words – but with added walking routes…
The first one’s a cracker we think…
Dick Hill (SE 01509 05272) – 453m summit
Happily for the purposes of our filthy theme for this post, Dick Hill is not only of fair girth at 453m, but it also sports a fine erection, just below it’s summit. The obelisk (at SE 01019 05122) is actually a war memorial, remembering the fallen from Uppermill and other surrounding towns in the two world wars. The monument is commonly known as the Pots n Pans memorial, named after a nearby rock feature said to resemble stacked crockery!
Although it initially looks very impressive, especially when viewed from the right angle at the base, Dick Hill isn’t really a true summit. The hill is a spur from the higher ground of Saddleworth Moor and Black Hill to the east, nestled between the outskirts of Oldham and the Greenfield valley, which cuts into Saddleworth itself. Still, size isn’t everything, and what it lacks in height it more than makes up for in spectacle, with steep flanks and amazing views over the valleys either side and across to Oldham and beyond.
Links to walks, photos and information about Dick Hill:
First off, before we start, we all have to agree to not notice it’s already nearly March. OK? OK…
In 2016 I set myself a New Year’s Resolution – to do 1000 active miles throughout the year (but, cheating a touch, I included indoor miles in the gym…). I managed to keep up the activity all the way through the year and met my goal, to my own surprise, let alone other people’s (my wife was fairly suspicious I’d been replaced with some kind of replicant – a suspicion only given up when she realised I was still serving no purpose, useful or malign).
I lost some weight. I definitely got much fitter (which had been the goal). But the real bonus was the experiences I had in the great outdoors while clocking up some extra miles. There are are some photos below of some of the sights I would have completely missed out on if I hadn’t shaken myself into the habit of finding extra opportunities to get out and about for a walk, kayak, cycle ride or (and this was the shock) a run.
Early morning mist over the Wye from Yat Rock
View over the fells on an evening walk after paddling Windermere
View down the Kirkstone Pass, after paddling Windermere
Ice breaking on the Birmingham Canals
Sun rising over the beach in Fuerteventura
So, cut to the chase, I’ve set myself the same target for 2017 – but now all the miles have to be outdoors! So, 1000 miles, in any activity, all outdoors. To help me along, I’ve set up 12 challenges to clock up some of these miles – roughly one per month (we’re still all ignoring it’s nearly March right?). If anyone would like to join me on any of these please let me know – though beware, I am a slow coach, especially on a bike!
A competitive canoe/kayak event
Dawn to Dusk walk (December, on the equinox?)
10km run – anywhere, anyhow!
An overnight canoe/camping trip
Coast to Coast cycle route (in 2-3days)
Do basic climbing course
100m bike ride (in one day)
Three Lakes Challenge (not in 24 hours mind!)
Striding Edge & Swirrel Edge – something to challenge my fear of heights!
Moorgreen Duathlon – it’s less than a mile away, seems rude not to?
Get onto moving water in a kayak – another challenging the fear one!
If anyone is looking for a UK bagging list, how about this?! This great mountain diagram is from the mid-1800s and is pretty stunning. The choice of hills is pretty idiosyncratic, probably as much a depiction of those that worked for the image (graphic design isn’t a new art!), but you could certainly do a whole lot worse for a list of hills covering the whole of these islands. I particularly love the now antiquated names for some of these hills – particularly Kinderscout.
What would your ideal Peak District tick list look like? Anything like this?
Everybody loves a good bagging list right? Even if you have no intention of completing them all, they give you a chance to pour over the lists, making plans for future trips. The range of lists is huge – from those based on set, immovable physical criteria, such as the County Tops, listing highest points in our counties to the Munros, detailing the Scottish hills with peaks over 3000ft in height. Then there are the more subjective lists, most famously Wainwright’s ‘love letter to the fells’ covered by the 217 fells in his pictorial guides. The Trail 100 is another example – being Trail Magazine’s list of the ‘top 100’ mountains for walkers in the UK.
I’ve always loved the idea of developing a bagging list for the Peak District. But the problem is the reliance most bagging lists have on ‘hills’. Although the Peak is blessed with many fantastic hills, it’s not an easy area to translate into a bagging list consisting of high points only. For a start, some of it’s highlights don’t involve you going up hill, but down dale – what self-respecting list could miss off Dove Dale or Lathkill Dale? Even up on the hills, the summits often aren’t the greatest attraction in the Peak District. Kinder must surely have the lowest proportion of walkers reaching it’s ‘true’ summit than any other popular mountain. It’s a special sort that braves the bogs to test their skills at ascertaining which of a multitude of rough peat mounds is 10cm higher than the rest. While they do, most sensible folk are at the trig, or the waterfall, or scrambling any of the fantastic rock formations instead. Then there are the edges – a defining feature of the Peak District landscape that set it apart from other upland areas across the country. Again many would be missed by a traditional hill list.
We like to think of bagging lists as an exact science – the heighest of hills, the most prominent peaks. But very often personal opinion and preferences sneak in. No more so than on Wainwright’s epic list (if there is a better hill bagging list I’d love to see it). As two examples how did Walla Crag (sublime) and Mungrisdale Common end up on the list? Walla Crag is just a stumpy ridge/cliff (OK, so an amazing stumpy ridge/cliff!) on the route up to Bleaberry Fell. It’s long been suspected AW included Mungrisdale Common simply to use up space – it’s barely even raised ground, with a prominence of just 1 meter, and barely a redeeming feature about it! And quite right too. Walking is about more than writing off a hill because it’s prominence from the next is too small – it’s about the journey, and the view when you get there!
Even those lists that are based on a set formula don’t necessarily give the best walking experiences. Take the county tops – the highest point in Nottinghamshire is, technically, a trig point, lost behind fencing in a fard yard, with no public acces, right by the M1 motorway. There are plenty of other hills in the county which make for a much more enjoyable walk, and are within a few meters of the actual county top – but rules is rules. Any bagger just sticking to the county tops must visit Nottinghamshire and make a mental note never to darken the county’s footpaths again!
All of the above is essentially me stating my case for casting aside any pretense at making a bagging list for the Peak based on any scientific formula. There are just three rules for each entry on the list:
It must be at it’s best on foot. Or, ideally, at it’s best if you arrive there by foot too. So Crich Stand is in despite it having a car park right by it – because it’s far more special to walk up to it from the canal below.
It must add to the story of what makes the Peak District such a special place. Be that human history, geology, or nature. So Bugsworth Basin, Magpie Mine and High Peak Junction are all in – they tell the human story of the Peak, and they certainly fit Rule 1.
It must be a defined point. The essential part of that location, rather than a line or area to dip in and out of. I’ve tried to include the famous trails in the Peak – the Pennine Way, our first National Trail, and the Monsal Trail. But I’ve chosen key points, rather than including the whole trail. That way anarchy lies!
My list therefore places each point into at least one (often more) of eight themes: Water, Hills, Edges, Dales, Human History, Natural History, Resources (quarrying, mining etc) and Trails. My aim is that anyone who has ticked off each entry on the list will have experienced something from all the stories the Peak has to tell. It’s a grand aim maybe, but one I’m having fun honing down!
The next key decision to make was on the geographical extent of ‘the Peak District’. Often publications stick fairly slavishly to the boundaries of the National Park. I didn’t want to take that approach. It’s boundary is set not by any natural limits, but by political, social and economic considerations. I know from living outside Nottingham that there are many places outside the park boundary to the South-East that are quintessentially Peak in character, and key to the story of the region. Leaving them out wasn’t an option.
Instead I decided to focus on the two key geological characteristics of the Peak – the limestone bedrock of the White Peak, and the darker, more brooding aspects of the sandstone Dark Peak. But even here drawing a line wan’t easy. I used the fantastic mapping resource from the British Geological Survey to try to draw a line around my ‘Great Peak District’ The areas I knew in the South-East, around Matlock especially, had a fairly clear boundary around them. But to the north the Dark Peak simply carries on as the Pennies stretch North through Yorkshire and Lancashire. In the South and West it was hard to decide upon a cut off too. Eventually I decided upon six core sections to base the list, which you can see in the map below. After setting upon these sections I remembered about Natural England’s National Character Areas. These break England down into distinct areas based not on political or cultural boundaries, but by factors dictated by the geography and character of the environment. I was pretty pleased to see my area match up pretty well with the various character areas on Natural England’s list relating to the Peak District!
And now, we really get right down to the nitty-gritty – what are the locations that should be included in the Essential Peak Bagging List? As you can see on the map below (and the spreadsheet below the map), I’ve tried to identify the places I think no list of Peak walking spots should be without. But I need some help! I’d love to hear views from anyone about the list – especially on places I’ve missed, or points that aren’t quite as essential as I thought! I don’t want a list ‘designed by committee’ – but I would like to know what people think!
Some particular issues – partly caused by rejecting the need to go simply for peaks or high points – were:
At some locations, what should be the absolute key spot to include – for example at Long Dale.
On some hills, Kinder especially, I’ve included more than one point where I think places are too important to miss, for example Kinder Downfall. Are there others that merit being a star in themselves, rather than being a sub-feature
So please – let me know what you think to the map above and list below, either by commenting, tweeting me @Peakrills or by email via Peakrills@gmail.com.
We may have already accepted that many of the Leave side’s, erm, lets say, ‘aspirations’ regarding post-Brexit Britain were, charitably, bluster. However, this doesn’t seem to be stopping a whole plethora of organisations from getting early letters-to-Santa into the post regarding the future of the country. In no field is this more clear than in the realm of farming subsidies – even before the referendum this was recognised as an emotive subject on all sides of the debate, with no-one happen with the current wasteful system.
The National Trust kicked off the calls for change post-Brexit in August. I covered this in a previous blog post, asking them not to forget about the role for improved countryside access. Since then there have a range of alternative ideas for reforming subsidies. These ideas, to no-one’s surprise, treat farming as the ultimate guinea-pig, a convenient test-bed for often highly ideological economic, social and political pet theories. I’m not sure, as an example, many of the farmers who voted for Brexit would be hugely impressed with Ryan Bourne of the IEA’s (a fundamentalist Free Market think-tank) proposal to simply cut all subsidies and throw farming to full global competitive forces (or, in simple terms, destroy UK farming).
In addition to Bourne’s Free Market views there have been proposals to protect smaller farms from CPRE; the predictable counter-arguments from the NFU and Country Landowner’s Association (CLA) and a new collaboration (of RSPB, WWF, Wildlife Trusts and National Trust) building on National Trust’s initial ideas with a new plan for a Green Brexit*. The partners have produced a glossy leaflet, outlining a new five point plan titled ‘A New Policy For Our Countryside‘.
Of course, my own blog on this issue was also an attempt to throw my own prime passion, countryside access, into the mix. And thankfully, as always, The Open Spaces Society have been making just that argument to government too. Their call is for the subsidy system to benefit access to the countryside, through more effective maintenance of current routes, and increased dedication of both new footpaths and Access Land. All of which is great (as usual OSS are leading from the front on this), but doesn’t really go far enough for those of us looking at a severe lack of access for our boats and bike as well as our boots.
Brexit means… working together
As already mentioned, most of the calls for change represent very narrow views, aligned closely (soley) to the organistion involved’s own work and interests. I listed some ideas for access in the last blog and I have a tonne more, But this post isn’t about simply throwing more ideas in the mix, but about encouraging organisations and campaigners to work together for change. And not just with others who are tightly aligned (as per the Green Brexit Coalition), but with others too.
If we want government to listen to any of us, we need to speak with more than just one voice. In 2013 our forests were threatened with a massive sell-off. In response the government recieved a loud, resounding chorus of criticism with just one message – over our dead bodies. I’ve no doubt that the government’s change of heart was driven, at least in part, by the huge diversity of voices telling them the sell-off was unacceptable.
Outdoor recreation, environmentalism and heritage often conflict with each other. This is senseless, and only serves to weaken each message. I’d love to see a Venn Diagram of people interested in the environment and involved in outdoor recreation** – I’ll bet you’ll see something looking more like an eclipse than two separate circles! So why do we not all work together more? Of course there are issues where interest may differ – but these are all surmountable through a cooperative approach and, even if not, still more binds us together.
So my message to all those who love our countryside – whether on foot during a challenge walk, with a passion for creating new habitats, or for protecting our rural heritage (or, as many of us will be, all three) to work together. It’s great that RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and National Trust are working together – but bring Ramblers, OSS and others with you! Together we’ll build a case government can’t ignore!
Brexit means… engaging
Leading on from this call for a coalition for the countryside is another point – both obvious and more tricky. We must also bring farmers with us too. Here I do think there is in many ways a disconnect between the different communities involved in protecting our countryside. I certainly don’t feel I know enough about farming. But we must seek to engage and understand the farming community if we are to develop a future for the countryside which genuinely does increase wildlife protection, rural heritage and access to the great outdoors. Imagine how strong our case will be if it represents not only a united from from heritage, conservation and access campaigners – but also has farmers championing our cause too!
* Good news for anyone who had that in their Brexit bingo. I got stuck with Sloppy-Brexit.
** This research document doesn’t have any Venn Diagrams, but does show that outdoor recreation and environmentalism come from very similar roots, and are very inter-twined – so why do we then go on to self-identify ourselves as one or the other?
Reaching the summit of Ingleborough, we stumbled around, not knowing where to aim for the final trig point on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. The bodies appearing out of the mist provided little in the way of help. The scene resembled an apocalyptic zombie film, with saturated, bedraggled and utterly exhausted bodies appearing out of the gloom from seemingly random directions. It was hard to tell if they were also searching out the elusive trig point or on their way back down. It seemed everyone’s internal compass was on the blink, from a combination of low batteries or water damage! Eventually the shelter appeared from the fog and, just beyond it, the trig. The last summit was done – it was all downhill from here. The hard work was over. Little did I know the remaining five miles would be some of the hardest on the route for me…
If Eskimos have 100 words for snow, on the walk that day we needed nearly as many to describe the murk we had to plod through. Fog, mist, cloud, gloo
m – none of them particularly enticing terms for a walk in the country. Especially a 24 mile one. The nearest we got to dramatic views was at the start on the climb up Pen-Y-Ghent. The summit did its level best to fight through the wall of grey, managing for a few brief minutes to provide a dramatic target for that first steep climb. It lost the battle fairly quickly however, and we were in the pea-soup for several hours before we dropped out of the bottom of it near Ribblehead.
Once the rain set in at the 10 mile mark it never really let up. It simply cycled between nasty drizzle and horrendous downpour for the rest of the afternoon. It put in a rousing crescendo on the last drag up Ingleborough, with hail and strong winds doing their level best to sap any remaining reserves of energy.
The last section of the route back to Horton goes through what I’m sure are, on any other day, stunning sections of limestone pavement. Today, the rain had conspired to combine wet slippery rock with even wetter, more slippery mud, to make it a real test – especially for my knees. My right knee (not the one I usually struggle with) took a beating, and was in considerable pain by now. However I was far too tired, wet and close to finishing to put on the knee support which had sat in my bag all day. So I just stomped onwards. If the zombie apocalypse really had occurred on Ingleborough, I’m pretty sure the good townsfolk of Horton would have gone for removing my head believing there was a better-than-average chance I was the infected rather than the heroic survivor I thought I was.
In the end we got round in 10 hours 15 minutes. Which I was pretty pleased with. If the knee hadn’t been playing up I may have ducked under 10 hours. Maybe if the really steep sections of ascent/descent were a touch less under water I’d have skipped over them a bit quicker too. But then, maybe if they were I’d also have taken more time to enjoy the views and had less resolve to get back as fast as was humanly (or zombily) possible. Who knows. I do know that despite the challenges I really enjoyed the walk. It’s a great blend of testing climbs and long sections where you can really get a head of steam up. I’d love to come back again – not with any aim of beating my time. In fact, quite the opposite. I’d much prefer to come back on a dryer, clearer day and take longer so I could really enjoy it.
Walk this route:
The route for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks is pretty self explanatory – there is now really good waymarking and finger posts on the route itself. There’s also a pretty constant stream of fellow hikers to follow if all else fails. Don’t be put of by that though – I thought it was good to be sharing a trail with so many others, especially one where you are all challenging yourselves – we spoke to a fair few others on the route, sharing experiences of this and other walks.
I’ve converted my Yorkshire 3 Peaks track on Viewranger so it can be downloaded as a route – I got wet, very wet, but we never diverted from ‘the’ route (mostly to avoid any extra time getting wet!), so it does follow the correct path. There are a few other links here too, all with descriptions and maps of the route:
The Yorkshire Dales website also has details of an app for the trail, an online store for souvenirs (the medals being recommended by me – they are copies of the waymarkers seen on posts around the route) and details of how you can contribute to keeping the route in good nick for future walkers too.
While looking through some ideas for routes to add to this site I found the draft for a route I’ve walked many times. I first wrote this up nearly 3 years ago, but I last walked it in May. The only bit of the route I had to change was were a ‘ramshackle old barn’ on the hill between Awsworth and Kimberley is now completely gone!
Eastwood is one of those towns on the edge – too rural to be seen as part of any city, but far too urban to be seen as rural. The second of these two is the most unfair. Despite growing hugely in the last 100 years, the town is still surrounded by some gorgeous countryside. It’s great walking territory . But I would say that, as it’s my home town? Well, this 16.5 mile route takes in a pretty wide variety of landcspaes to say you are never more than a mile from a decent sized town. There are green fields aplenty, with paths crossing lovely low hillsides with great views. There’s parkland to start and finish. There’ no shortage of waterside walking, with nature reserves following the ‘flashes’ (large ponds created by open cast working) at Brinsley (great for wildife); three rural canals (in various states of being!) and two rivers/streams. There’s also woodland at various points along the route. Despite it’s length it’s an easy walk too – with much of it along the canals being flat, and low gradients to the hills.
This area of the world isn’t lacking in heritage interest either. The town of Eastwood is very closely associated with DH Lawrence. The writer hated the town, but loved the countryside around it, with many of the locations around the walk being very recognisable in Lawrence’s books. The route also passes the sites of at least eight old collieries too – but you would never guess it now. All that remains are either deliberate reminders, like coal-trucks at Collier’s Wood or the the headstocks at Brinsley, or hints in the landscape which has almost completly returned to green countryside.
The one part I was never quite happy with was the small urban section through Langley Mill. Nothing against Langley Mill, but a busy road isn’t what I wanted in the walk. But using the Cromford Canal would still have left road walking and cut out the lovely countryside around Brinsley, while taking the route out past Heanor would have made it a touch too long, and detracted from it being a circular around Eastwood. So, for that mile you’ll have to bear with it – but I promise the rest of it is gold. And you can at least use it to stock up on food and drink in the shops along the high street. Or have a MaccyDs. No-ones judging here.
There’s a map of the route below. But you can also: